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Cover image for Why I Turned Down My First Ever Full Time Development Job




Why I Turned Down My First Ever Full Time Development Job




bdlb77 profile image Bryan Leighton ・6 min read

A fair majority of us have gone through the pains and troughs of at least several months of finding that first dev job, and then heading over to LinkedIn to ecstatically change our job status to flaunt our so well-earned indoctrination and achievement of finally being an industry standard developer.

I had spent over nine months of digging through websites’ careers page and casting my very wide and trusty job-searching net in hopes of landing that one fish, no matter what type it was. I’ve applied to numerous companies that I eventually had forgotten about, only to receive a lovely rejection letter two months later detailing how my resume is very impressive, but just not quite impressive enough or that I’m not the right fit for their team. So then, why after over a hundred applications sent and near as many rejections, did I reject that first holy grail, that first offer to join the prestigious and exclusive club of being a true, professional developer? 


Before answering this question, I’ll give a short telling of my journey as a web developer. I started off in April 2018 with Le Wagon coding bootcamp, where I happened to meet my girlfriend who would convince me (albeit fairly easily) to pick up and move to Berlin in July 2018. I then began hustling as a Teaching Assistant for Le Wagon in Berlin while simultaneously, like rapid-fire, throwing out job applications to any and every company that I could find a job posting that was remotely close to what I was looking for. In November, happened to stumble into contracting and freelancing as a web developer which allowed me luckily to pay the bills enough to make ends-meet. 


horseback riding cowboy holding a lamp

Now back to the question at hand, why would I ever even consider turning down the first full time job offer I’ve received as a developer?

The offer wasn’t decent regarding the salary and commute, however it wasn’t terrible either, especially since at this point any offer was like finding a goldmine. When I had negotiated for the salary, I had asked for a salary that is the industry standard for computer science graduates, and I was rebutted since I am only a boot camp graduate. This was fine for me, as I knew not to care about the salary. The commute would be fairly long, but once again, a sacrifice I’d be willing to make to lay my first steps into the realm of professional developer-hood.

So, I decided to try out the company for a day and went in for work to check it out and see what it would be like. We agreed that I’d come on first as a contractor until the manager who’s in charge of the contracts comes back and can process a full time position to join the team. The day went fairly well, and I enjoyed it more than I expected. I had also received a dream position as a React Native developer. I have recently gotten into React as a focus, so this couldn’t have been any better in this regard. With the company being an agency, I also knew that I’d have lots of exposure to several different projects and I wouldn’t be stuck on one API for my entire tenure (hopefully). I even had lots of autonomy and worked the same as every other developer straight off the bat, just completing the tasks handed to me by the project manager.

a guy on google search on a macbook
Everything seems like it had been a beautiful job served to me on a silver platter (not quite gold since the commute was a little longer than I was hoping for). Despite the commute and money, I was prepared to take this job if the offer was worth it. However it wasn’t. Yes… Yes… You read that correctly, I turned down my first ever developer job, and don’t worry I still think I’m fairly nuts for doing it. But, why? Well because of:

1. Mentorship

As a first job and only having around one year of experience, the foremost thing I’m seeking is mentorship. After working the one day with this company, I noticed I was treated the same as all the seasoned developers and there seemed to not be some type of access to a full time mentor that I could pester. The first position you take as a developer should focus on learning and growth. True, I could’ve taken the job and learn lots on my own, but having a senior to whom you can ask questions is something that is valuable. Rather than spending four or five hours sometimes on a feature or piece of code, you can just roll over to them and bug them to help you fix it in a matter of minutes. A company that has mentorship guidelines in place demonstrates that they care about your growth and not only on your output.

2. Self-Worth

After experiencing the first day, I knew that I was being undervalued. I was doing the same work as the other developers, and I was making a fairly smaller amount of money for it. As a first job, I did say earlier that your salary shouldn’t matter as long as you can pay the bills, however coupling a lower salary without mentorship nor educational capital demonstrated to me that they viewed me as a cheap hire. They hadn’t seemed to care to detail any type of investment in my growth or education, and expected me to do the same output as the other developers. If you are to be making much less than the industry standard, I believe you should expect to be compensated with mentorship and tools to help you grow as a developer to make it to the next level. To me, this job didn’t seem to care about such things.


3. Self-Growth

For this job I’d have an hour and a half commute each way. Although this is ample time for listening to podcasts (which I most certainly did), the tradeoff of such lost time should be worth it. As junior developers, we need to take every opportunity we can get to keep learning and building. So the question we have to ask ourselves is: Does the job dedicate some time in-house for developing personal projects or time learning? If the answer is no, then we should be able to learn and grow on our own time, or it may be better to find a company that provides it, or is willing to be flexible with you to find a mutual solution that benefits your personal growth.

Conclusion

As Junior Developers we must focus on these things as requirements for our first job. I turned down job because ultimately I was viewed primarily as a tool that they had no plans to sharpen. I believe a company hires juniors for two main reasons, 1. We are cheaper hires and 2. They see potential in you and as a possibility to mold you into what they need. I’d much rather work for a company that takes the time to promote my personal growth and coding knowledge. A company that wants to hire me because I’m cheaper, tells me that they aren’t a company that values the individual from their potential, but instead by the profit they can turn. As juniors, we must understand our self-worth and know that we take lower salaries because it should be compensated with options to learn and grow, and of course to have a mentor that we can pester day-in-and-day-out with all of the naïve questions that they once had themselves. One of the greatest things about the developer community is the openness and willingness to give a helping hand when in need. I expect nothing less from a job, because that is the atmosphere I want work in, and a company I’d hope to join.

I'm curious to hear of y'alls experiences with job searching for that first developer job. Getting your foot in the door is extremely important, but how much do you sacrifice and what would be sacrificing too much?

I hope y'all enjoyed!

Posted on by:

bdlb77 profile

Bryan Leighton

@bdlb77

Howdy, I'm Bryan and I’m a fullstack developer who loves to hack in Ruby on Rails and JavaScript. I love swing dancing 🕺🏽and DnD and anything nerdy. I am a true Blerd!

Discussion

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I think you've got the right ideas, Bryan! I just started my second job out of a coding bootcamp and have a little more perspective on the job hunt for bootcamp grads.

I think valuing mentorship at your first job is a must! (Sidenote: don't think of asking questions of your peers as "pestering". If you've joined a company that's open to helping you grow, they won't think of it as pestering, either - it's learning opportunities for the whole team!)

Keep looking for other opportunities and talking with people at existing companies. I'd recommend meeting up with people who are employed for coffee to just to pick their brain on their experiences as developers. I've had good experience with this as really low-stress networking where you can learn about good companies in the area as well as make connections without asking for the person to do anything for you other than chat.

 

(Sidenote: don't think of asking questions of your peers as "pestering". If you've joined a company that's open to helping you grow, they won't think of it as pestering, either - it's learning opportunities for the whole team!)

+1 to this!

 

Thank you for the advice! I full-heartedly agree with doing coffee mingles with other developers. Here in Tel Aviv there is a coffee meetup open to all developers in the area which is a very nice way to start the morning before work while also getting to know a diverse set of developers from all over the area

 

Even experienced devs don't know everything, nobody does. It's always great to ask questions, provided you do a bit of work upfront first.

 

I completely agree with you here. A quote resonates with me and I can't seem to find the exact wording, however it goes similar to this: " A master is both always a master and an apprentice". No one fully understands everything like you said, and there's always opportunity for improvement and learning. I also agree with you regarding work put in. I do believe that you should strive to find the answer on your own for the most part as you can gain a lot to learn. However, there's a big difference in asking, "hey what are some articles you recommend me to dive into that are more relevant to this problem?" versus "what's the answer?" .. At the bootcamp I work for, we place an emphasis to sit down with the students and then we do the research together to find an answer rather than just giving it to them straight away. The old: "Give a man a fish he can eat for a day, teach a man to fish he can eat for a lifetime"

 

Nice post, it resonates so much with me. Most of all the mentorship and self-growth part. I'm at my first job after graduating college, as an Android dev, in a small startup and I love it. My boss is like my mentor, it's like he knows about everything lol so I learn a lot from him. Also I have free access to tutorials on Lynda so I can learn at the office when I don't have any task and I can work on sides projects.

 

I think it makes all the difference when you have a company that values you, and in the end any new knowledge you learn can benefit not only you but also the job! I hope that all jobs will move towards a setup similar to what you have!

 

You learned a lot in just one day!

While I believe your goals are admirable (mentorship, self worth and development opportunities) I can't help but feel you've missed a fundamentally important point. You mentioned that this was a contract role until a permanent position could be found. Contractors are paid to do a job, plain and simple. Companies provide mentors, meaningful work and opportunities for growth to permanent employees who have demonstrated their commitment to the company. By leaving after one day you have shown that you do not have this.

Manage your expectations of what a company should give you based on what you are prepared to give to a company.

 

I suppose I hadn't quite made it clear regarding the contracting situation as I believe it was a slightly unique one. I was offered the job as a full time employee, however the executive who writes the contracts happened to be out for a few days. They had told me to continue with the onboarding and an employment contract would've been written up whenever he got back from being out of the office.

What gave me a bad taste was the fact I was thrown into the job without any preparation or even introduction into the team nor was a plan laid out whatsoever about what my duties entailed. Even when I brought up the topic of mentorship and educational opportunities, rather than just giving me an upfront answer they had dodged the question. If I'm to be expected to work the same as everyone else, that's fine by me, but don't expect to pay 2/3 the salary for the same work as other employees. This is a similar mentality of a company relieving a manager, then giving the tasks and duties of that manager to the assistant manager but refusing to promote them as to not pay them the official manager amount.

I expect a company to treat their employees fairly and give the correct compensation for the work they are expected to produce. If you want to pay less because you believe the employee to be more "junior" than the normal junior developer salary. Great. Compensate with mentorship and education. Or if you want to treat them as every other employee, then match the compensation.

 

I have to nitpick a little bit with this:

As juniors, we must understand our self-worth and know that we take lower salaries because it should be compensated with options to learn and grow, and of course to have a mentor that we can pester day-in-and-day-out with all of the naïve questions that they once had themselves.

  • You're not a "junior." That word should be banned from job titles.
  • I think when you say "self-worth" you mean "value to your employer." Your value as perceived by the employer might be less or more. Your self-worth shouldn't change regardless of your employer or lack of one.

Companies should provide some form of mentorship. Many, perhaps even most, don't. Even though it makes sense, expecting it might limit our options. Many companies adopt a "sink or swim" attitude without really understanding how pointless that is. If they don't want to help new developers learn then they probably shouldn't hire them in the first place.

If a company does provide mentoring you still have to watch out because your mentor could be a horrible developer who's been doing it wrong for ten years and can't wait to tell you how wrong everything you read on all those stupid blogs is. It could be this fictional developer.

There is no experience quite like being a new developer and having the senior, "experienced" person tell you with absolute confidence something that you know is fundamentally wrong, and then do it again and again. It's a horrible position to be in because you feel that as a new developer you're not qualified to judge their skills. But despite their years and job title you realize that they don't know what they're talking about. And they're mentoring you. Now you've got to carefully weigh everything they say to figure out what's right and what's not. (Admittedly you should double-check what people tell you anyway.) That person can slow your growth.

Whether we're starting off or not, most jobs and companies aren't the way they should be. We're a giant mess. When I read that back it doesn't sound constructive or helpful. It isn't, unless it lowers our expectations until we don't have any. Okay, now I'm just sad.